Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel charges16 Michigan residents with multiple felony counts for elaborate false electors scheme; meanwhile, Congress members re-introduce voter legislation to set basic national standards during elections
By Julia Dudley Najieb - Black Headline News
Since the initial beginning of our country's inception, U.S. elections have proven to be an area of contention for candidates, voters and passionate supporters willing to risk going to the extreme to make sure their favored contender wins--especially during presidential elections.
However, the recent events currently being investigated in Lansing, Mich. prove that our election system is very broken; some candidate supporters will risk breaking the law to meet their desired election outcome.
On July 18, the Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel announced felony charges against 16 Michigan, Republican, resident voters, ranging from ages 55 to 82 for their role in the alleged false electors scheme following the 2020 U.S. presidential election.
According to CNN, some of the GOP electors in Michigan were local activists who were recruited to serve as “fake electors,” all while inaccurately believing there was still a chance that then-President Donald Trump might secure a second consecutive term. Others were well-connected GOP operatives. The group of 16 fake electors includes current and former state GOP officials, a Republican National Committee member, a sitting mayor, a school board member and Trump supporters who were the plaintiffs in a frivolous lawsuit that tried to overturn the 2020 results.
Although the GOP operative efforts were extreme, former President Donald Trump did not succeed in securing a second term in the U.S. presidential election that took place Tuesday, November 3, 2020.
“The false electors’ actions undermined the public’s faith in the integrity of our elections and, we believe, also plainly violated the laws by which we administer our elections in Michigan,” said Nessel. "My department has prosecuted numerous cases of election law violations throughout my tenure, and it would be malfeasance of the greatest magnitude if my department failed to act here in the face of overwhelming evidence of an organized effort to circumvent the lawfully cast ballots of millions of Michigan voters in a presidential election.”
These defendants are alleged to have met covertly in the basement of the Michigan Republican Party headquarters on December 14, and signed their names to multiple certificates stating they were the “duly elected and qualified electors for President and Vice President of the United States of America for the State of Michigan.” These false documents were then transmitted to the United States Senate and National Archives in a coordinated effort to award the state’s electoral votes to the candidate of their choosing, in place of the candidates actually elected by the people of Michigan.
“The evidence will demonstrate there was no legal authority for the false electors to purport to act as ‘duly elected presidential electors’ and execute the false electoral documents,” Nessel continued. “Every serious challenge to the election had been denied, dismissed, or otherwise rejected by the time the false electors convened. There was no legitimate legal avenue or plausible use of such a document or an alternative slate of electors. There was only the desperate effort of these defendants, who we have charged with deliberately attempting to interfere with and overturn our free and fair election process, and along with it, the will of millions of Michigan voters. That the effort failed and democracy prevailed does not erase the crimes of those who enacted the false electors plot.”
Although no date has been set yet, each of the 16 charged defendants who are to appear in 54-A District Court in Ingham County for individual arraignments have been charged with:
One count of Conspiracy to Commit Forgery, a 14-year felony,
Two counts of Forgery, a 14-year felony,
One count of Conspiracy to Commit Uttering and Publishing, a 14-year felony,
One count of Uttering and Publishing, a 14-year felony,
One count of Conspiracy to Commit Election Law Forgery, a 5-year felony, and,
Two counts of Election Law Forgery, a 5-year felony.
Meanwhile, some feel that Congress must step in to do something about the state of U.S. general elections.
In online article by the Brennan Center for Justice, Pass the Freedom to Vote Act, authors Andrew Garber and Daniel I. Weiner explained that at least seven states passed 12 laws to roll back voting access and make partisan meddling in election administration easier. Extreme gerrymandering, dark money in elections, and other longstanding problems are at historically high levels--Attacks on election officials and related political violence are on the rise.. And even where candidates who ran on election denial lost statewide, other candidates won critical local roles that directly oversee voting and the tabulation of results.
The best solution remains for Congress to set baseline national standards for voting and elections like those in the Freedom to Vote Act. This legislation, coupled with the equally important John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, must remain at the top of the national agenda, the article continued.
Now that voters are feeling threatened at polling places, members of Congress are seeking viable solutions to bring equity to voting access and equality in the voting process.
In a press conference yesterday, several House and Senate representatives confirmed their support again for the Freedom to Vote Act (see full list of Congress supporters below.)
“The freedom to vote is fundamental to all of our freedoms, and as we continue to see unprecedented attacks on our democracy in states across the country, it is clear we must take action. These attacks demand a federal response,” said U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Chairwoman of the Committee on Rules and Administration with oversight over federal elections and campaign finance law. “The Freedom to Vote Act will set basic national standards to make sure all Americans can cast their ballots in the way that works best for them, regardless of what zip code they live in. This bill will ensure Americans can request a mail-in ballot and have access to drop boxes, have at least two weeks of early voting, and can register to vote on Election Day.”
“The story of American democracy is one of a relentless march towards further equality,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY). “The Freedom To Vote Act would rectify one of the great historic harms of our past and put us closer to our goal of a fully representative democracy. The legislation is a fair, effective, and common-sense proposal that will strengthen our democracy and give voice to all Americans. Last year, our caucus stood united in fighting against anti-democratic principles, and I urge my colleagues across the aisle to join our attempts to safeguard this fundamental right.”
According to the Brennan Center for Justice, the legislation would set baseline national standards to protect voting access and make it harder for partisans to manipulate elections. It would also create new protections for election officials and workers, prohibit partisan gerrymandering, and blunt the problem of dark money. The article also stated that consistent federal funding to help states run elections, as well as combining the Freedom to Vote Act with the equally necessary John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act — which would restore and update the Voting Rights Act’s protections against racial discrimination in voting — would be essential to the progress of voting during elections per state. This legislation came close to passing in 2022 but did not.
“It was in my hometown of Selma, Alabama where John Lewis and the Foot Soldiers shed blood on a bridge for the equal right of all Americans to vote,” said U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell (AL-07), Ranking Member of the Committee on House Administration Subcommittee on Elections. “But today, their legacy—and democracy itself—is under attack by extremists and election deniers who are working to subvert our elections and make it harder for Americans to vote.”
“The Freedom to Vote Act protects the right to vote, supports local election workers, bans dark money, and ends partisan gerrymandering,” continued Sewell. “Together with the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which I will introduce in the coming months, it will ensure that every American can vote in secure, accessible, and transparent elections.”
“I’m a son of Rochester, New York, the home of two of the most passionate and well-known advocates for voting rights, Frederick Douglass and Susan B. Anthony. Today, we continue the fight they began so long ago—to help bring America closer to its foundational promise. The Freedom to Vote Act will protect and strengthen the bedrock of our democracy,” said House Committee on Administration Ranking Member Joe Morelle (D-NY).
“The strength of our democracy depends on Americans’ ability to make their voices heard. It’s crucial that we pass the Freedom to Vote Act to help expand voting by mail, early voting, and other reforms to make voting easier. These provisions—many of which were adopted in Virginia—are broadly popular among Americans across the political spectrum and are essential to our democracy,” said Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA).
This bill, which received the full support of the Democratic Caucus when it was considered on the Senate floor in January 2022, includes three sections, each intended to protect the right to vote and strengthen our democracy.
The Freedom to Vote Act:
Protects and Expands Voting Access: The Freedom to Vote Act makes Election Day a public holiday. It modernizes voter registration opportunities by implementing automatic voter registration; ensures voters in all states have access to online voter registration; and ensures all voters have access to same day voter registration opportunities. It sets minimum, nationwide standards for voting opportunities by setting a uniform floor of days and hours for early voting; setting minimum standards for access to ballot drop boxes; a nationwide standard of no-excuse absentee voting; and improves delivery of election mail. It also improves access for voters with disabilities and military and overseas voters.
Prevents State Election Subversion: The Freedom to Vote Act supports election workers and establishes federal protections to insulate nonpartisan election officials who administer federal elections from undue partisan interference or control.
Combats Dark Money and Ends Gerrymandering: The Freedom to Vote Act requires super PACs, 501(c)(4) groups, and other organizations spending money in elections to disclose donors and shuts down the use of transfers between organizations to cloak the identity of contributors. It also ends partisan gerrymandering and establishes specific criteria for congressional redistricting to ensure nonpartisan redistricting.
BHN Insider: Congress to reintroduce Freedom to Vote Act; here's why (Part 1)
Watch part one now!
“As Republican-controlled state legislatures across the country continue to disenfranchise voters and suppress the right to vote, it is critical that we make it easier, not harder, for eligible Americans to participate in elections,” said U.S. Senator Alex Padilla (D-CA). “This legislation includes proven reforms that I helped implement as California’s top elections official to make our elections more accessible and more secure. It puts an end to partisan gerrymandering, protects access to the ballot box, and ensures our elections can’t be bought — because our democracy works best when everyone’s voice is heard.”
“From bad actors making mass challenges to scores of legitimate voter registrations, to on-going efforts by partisan state leaders in Georgia and elsewhere to usurp community control from local election boards, it’s clear that the people’s voices are being squeezed out of our democracy and that it’s impacting our ability to address a whole range of problems facing the American people,” said Senator Raphael Warnock (D-GA). “That’s why I’m immensely proud to stand with my colleagues in introducing the Freedom to Vote Act, which would help secure our democracy against these threats undermining our elections, and ensure that every eligible American can cast their ballot and be sure it’s counted.”
BHN Insider: Freedom to Vote Act Part 2 reviews why the states of Georgia and Alabama are in need of election process reform immediately
Watch part 2 now!
Other U.S. senator's weighed in on the fact that voter suppression is recognized as a real threat to the American democracy.
“Voting is the heart of our democracy, yet Americans continue to face voter suppression efforts that make it harder to vote or intentionally keep voters from the ballot box,” said Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR). “Democracy doesn’t exist unless every eligible voter can vote and have their vote counted.”
“It’s our responsibility to ensure free and fair elections now to protect our democracy for generations to come,” said Senator Jon Tester (D-MT). “This critical legislation creates common sense standards that will strengthen local control and keep our elections safe by protecting voting rights, shining a light on dark money in politics, and closing loopholes that allow for foreign spending in our elections. I won’t stop fighting to ensure every eligible Montanan can make their voice heard at the ballot box.”
“Any threat to the democratic process is a threat to our democracy itself,” said Senator Angus King (I-ME). “In the face of state-level threats that undercut the fundamental right to vote for millions of Americans, we must act to protect our democracy. The Freedom to Vote Act would set commonsense minimum standards to ensure that no state infringes upon its citizens’ right to vote and confront widespread anti-democratic practices such as partisan gerrymandering and dark money spending. Free, fair and open elections are the backbone of our national commitment to government of the people, by the people, and for the people – and through this legislation, we will do our part to pass this experiment in self-government on to the next generation of Americans.”
U.S. House of Representatives focused on the reintroduction of the legislation, ensuring that voters regain their power and confidence in the election process.
"The Freedom to Vote Act reflects Congressional Democrats' unwavering commitment to ensuring every American has a voice and a vote in our democracy," said House of Rep. John Sarbanes (D-MD). "By designating the Freedom to Vote Act as H.R. 11 in the House and S.1 in the Senate, we are giving this bill the highest possible priority because our most fundamental freedoms are at stake. I am proud to join my colleagues in reintroducing this bicameral legislation that returns power to the people by ensuring access to the ballot box, fixing partisan gerrymandering and finally addressing the undue and corrupting influence of big money on our politics and the functioning of our government."
The bill is being cosponsored by the following Senators:
Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Angus King (I-ME), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Alex Padilla (D-CA), Jon Tester (D-MT), Reverend Raphael Warnock (D-GA), Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Tom Carper (D-DE), Bob Casey (D-PA), Chris Coons (D-DE), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), John Fetterman (D-PA), Kristen Gillibrand (D-NY), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), John Hickenlooper (D-CO), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Mark Kelly (D-AZ), Ben Ray Luján (D-NM), Ed Markey (D-MA), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Patty Murray (D-VA), Jon Ossoff (D-GA), Gary Peters (D-MI), Jack Reed (D-RI), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Kyrsten Sinema (I-AZ), Tina Smith (D-MN), Debbe Stabenow (D-MI), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Mark Warner (D-VA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Peter Welch (D-VT), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), and Ron Wyden (D-OR).
U.S. House Rep. in support include Terri Sewell (AL-07), House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), House Democratic Whip Katherine Clark (D-MA), and Rep. John Sarbanes (D-MD),